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Mainers Decide Fate of Bonds, Local Initiatives
11/05/2013   Reported By: Jay Field

Maine's top election official, Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, spent the day visiting polling places across the state, as voters cast ballots in this off year election. Besides numerous local initiatives and races, statewide bond proposals on the ballot would fund transportation projects, the Maine National Guard, the University of Maine System, community colleges and Maine Maritime Academy. Jay Field visited with voters and poll workers in Bangor, where turnout was steady, but light.

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Maine Voters Head to the Polls
Originally Aired: 11/5/2013 5:30 PM

For years, voters in the Queen City showed up at the poorly-ventilated, archaic, V-shaped Bangor Auditorium to cast their ballots. But that dinosaur of a polling place is no more - torn down to make way for a brand new, gleaming, state-of-the-art convention center and arena.

Ballots are now cast inside the convention center, at a labyrinth of polling stations set up inside a large banquet hall. At a little after 3:00 o'clock, poll worker Paul Svendsen stood outside the room, watching two voters fill out paperwork at the same-day registration table.

"If this were the presidential election - the last one - the lines were always just around the corner," Svendsen says. "People were wanting to register so they could vote."

But this afternoon, voters came and went from the Cross Insurance Center in more of a trickle, than a sustained rush. There are a little over 22,000 registered voters in Bangor. By the time the day is over, city clerk Lisa Goodwin says she'd be surprised if the turnout was higher than 6,000 people.

"You have certain voters that vote at every single election. They're not going to miss an election," she says. "And then you have other voters that feel that the governor's race and the presidential race are more important."

This November, voters did have five statewide bond questions to weigh. Bangor resident Rita Haunert voted "yes" on bonds to improve Maine's aging armories, upgrade roads and bridges and build a science and research center at Maine Maritime Academy.

Haunert, who used to teach in the Maine Community College System, also voted "yes" - enthusiastically - on Question 5, which would will invest $15.5 million in the rapidly-expanding system, where enrollment is on the rise.

But for Haunert, not all education bonds are created equal. "The one for the university to build more buildings and everything, um, maybe I'm just prejudiced, but it seems that they they have a lot of new buildings already," she says.

Haunert voted "no" on Question 2, which would give the University of Maine System the same amount as the community colleges to update and improve labs and classrooms.

Another Bangor voter, though, wasn't in the mood to give the state too much new funding. Jim Downs voted "yes" on the transportation bond and "no" on everything else. "The state has too much debt as it is," he says. "Until they fix it at the top, no more money."

Voters who came out across the state, including Downs, said local issues and races were also a big motivator to get to the polls. Two of the most high-profile questions are on the ballot in southern Maine. Voters in Portland are deciding if they want to make it legal for adults to possess up to 2 ounces of marijuana. And residents of South Portland are voting on an ordinance aimed at preventing the flow of tar sands oil into the city from Canada.


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